After people are moving with a modicum of proficiency, give them a little weight. Weight adds three important things to an exercise:
- Resistance. Adding weight will make the athlete stronger.
- Feedback. A body needs something to push against and resist in order to get the feel of an exercise. Obviously for bodyweight exercises, it’s more important to get the form down. The body will often work hard enough against itself and against gravity, so the weight is not crucial. However, in a barbell exercise the importance of balancing the barbell in space is critical to understanding the movement. Thus some weight over which the athlete and gravity compete will provide a better stimulus.
- Amplification. Adding weight will uncover problems. In a perfect world all problems would be addressed and corrected before putting an athlete under load, but we don’t live in that perfect world. Try to make sure the athlete displays all the salient features of the exercise before loading them, but don’t insist on perfection. The athlete will rarely be perfect without the feedback of added resistance. In fact, they may never be perfect due to their particular body issues. Nonetheless we can continue to improve their strength and stamina by progressively loading them and improving their form over time. Certain athletes will only display certain problems under load and we might delay redressing those issues for far too long if we hold them back too much.
Coaching and teaching is a refinement process. Nobody gets it right on the first try. If they do, then make them do Fran and see if they still get it right. We must get people moving. Then we can get them moving better. Running with bad form is obviously bad and potentially injurious, but one’s running form won’t improve without a lot of running; with both good and bad form.
Make someone run 400m, look at their form, give them something to improve on the next 400m. Look and see if they were able to assimilate the new information. Then either repeat or give them a new thing to work on. Over the course of many 400m runs, you hope to improve their form. But keep in mind that you had them run a lot of 400m runs with bad form until it got better. The same is true of strength training. You are going to see a lot of bad reps before you start seeing good reps. But remember you can’t get to the good reps without going through all the bad reps first. Constantly seek to refine your athletes technique and form, but make them do a ton of reps to get there.
Hit the big stuff first. Refinement is a process of going from raw material down to it’s essential elements. When teaching try to hit the big points first. Details come over time. Don’t sweat the details. Hit the big points and get the athlete’s to see the big picture. If you see something that needs addressing that is more subtle, then discuss it. But make sure you hit the big points. For example, when teaching the deadlift, make sure backs are arched. If you get that much accomplished, then grip, stance, bar path and other things are easy to address. But make sure everyone understands arched back first.